Food 2.0: Sustainable Food Futures - young people's views from Rio and London

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Social Sciences Research Institutes


This interdisciplinary project explores with youth from income-poor urban settings how they conceptualise sustainable food. It does this through the medium of participatory film.

In Rio, the social geography of urban inequality is such that many urban youths grow up in favelas, or informal, income-poor settlements. In London, urban inequality is expressed in other spatial patterns, nevertheless, there boroughs with more income-poor people. Challenges such as reliance on food banks, lack of availability of affordable fresh food, obesity and malnutrition are common in both cities, while at the same time community gardens, community markets, free school meals, campaigns against food deserts etc. exist in both settings. In Brazil, there is also an innovative new policy on regionally appropriate and sustainably sourced school meals. Previous work by the UK-Brazilian project team (ESRC-DFID Choices project) focused on large scale representative surveys and focus groups in Brazil which showed that Brazilians strongly supported sustainable sourcing in public procurement.

In each city, the project works with community organisations active in the local area who have been developing digital media or participatory theatre projects with local youths who are often from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The aim of the project is to
a) to explore with urban youths in receipt of school meals how they conceptualise sustainable food, food justice and urban food sovereignty
b) to engage with the youths, the public and policy makers through participatory video, film competitions and public film screenings, thus continuing to build pathways to impact
c) to deepen a recent research partnership between two centres of excellence in sustainable consumption at Royal Holloway, University of London and the Universidade do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).
d) to trial participatory methodologies, to compare research practice and prepare future joint research

Participatory workshops will be offered Rio and London, which combine the emancipatory pedagogy of Paulo Freire with the new technologies of filming on mobile phone cameras. We will draw on previous findings from the surveys and focus groups and present the results to the 14-18 year old youths for discussion. Then the youths will be invited to participate in a film competition. The winning team from Rio will be invited to a film screening showing the Brazilian and UK films in a London cinema and take part in a panel discussion with policy makers, community activists and local politicians. Equally the team from London will travel to Rio to present and discuss their film there.

While there is no predicting what the young film-makers will express in their films, these creative pieces will help initiate discussion wit the public about food justice, sustainable food and urban food sovereignty. Combining an academic, a practice and a policy perspective on the issue, and linking the local level food challenges with an international perspective, the project promises to generate new ways of understanding food futures.

Planned Impact

Brazil is the 7th largest economy, and yet one of the most unequal societies in the world, with a Gini index of 0.55 (World Bank 2013). Government policies, including the school meals policy, focus on reducing inequality and have shown some effect.

Less heard is the perspective of youths from disadvantaged urban areas, such as favelas, on their own hoped-for food futures. In this action research project we work with local NGOs to a) use an updated version of Freirean pedagogy to pursue the development objectives of raising consciousness around food sovereignty, sustainability and food justice
b) building transferable employability skills in participatory video making and digital media,
c) fostering the creativity and resilience of youths in the favela,
d) building the capacity of researchers, and
d) use participatory video and UNICEF's U-reporter methods to carry the voices of youth into public, policy and development cooperation for a

In the UK, the effects of rising inequality are also keenly felt. Food-related problems such as obesity, reliance on foodbanks, lack of access to affordable fresh food etc are all issues of relevance to disadvantaged youths in urban areas.

This project will benefit youth from low-income neighbourhoods in London, asking them about the food futures they imagine. They too will benefit from
a) awareness-raising around food sovereignty, sustainability and food justice
b) developing transferable employability skills in participatory video making and digital media
c) fostering the creativity of youths

In addition, we will be experimenting with using participatory video and UNICEF's U-reporter methods to carry the voices of youth into public and policy arenas.

Ethical consumption is a research area in which global North and middle-class research subjects dominate (Cotte & Trudel 2009). Further, this research area has not sufficiently engaged with the growing urban food sovereignty debates. Food sovereignty is a movement which asserts the right of people to define their own food systems (Via Campesina 1996). Brazil has recently introduced a pioneering school meals policy which stresses children's right to healthy and culturally appropriate food, buys 30% of ingredients from family farms and pays a premium for organic produce (Bartholo et al. 2012). To our knowledge no research has yet been conducted exploring the pupils' perspective.

Our research will connect Brazilian and UK perspectives, thus benefitting the research communities in each country, in particular in the fields of urban studies, ethical consumption, sustainability, and participatory video.

Further, our research allows us to explore the use of participatory video as a research method in food research and ethical consumption research.

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ES/M011615/1 01/01/2015 30/11/2016 £89,546
ES/M011615/2 Transfer ES/M011615/1 01/12/2016 31/10/2017 £55,910
Description Throughout this project we collaborated with community organisations who work with disadvantaged urban youth. We used participatory digital film as a method to help young people express their visions of sustainable food futures. We offered workshops and a film competition for young people. Our main findings include: 1) The young people were highly motivated to engage with participatory digital film, and this interest in the medium drew them in. Only in the course of the 5-day workshop did they gradually develop an interest in issues of food justice. Once the had become interested they wanted to explore further. 2) Participatory digital film works very well as a methodology to elicit creative and affective responses to an issue, and we discovered ways in which factual information could be integrated into the process more systematically. Screening the films gives the young people a sense of pride and achievement 3) Tangible topics such as food waste were particularly salient and were framed in a campaigning style, while stories pertaining to the cultural heritage of food in Rio were presented in more narrative style. 4) Combining the workshop with a film competition was a successful but it required managing a tension between the collectivist ethos of participatory video and an individualist imaginary of the "director with a vision" as perpetuated by the commercial film industry. 5) Participatory film is a powerful and empowering, if time-intensive methodology. However a good inclusive process which retains the novice film-makers at the centre of filming and editing will produce films (outputs) that are sufficiently professional looking to be shown to an interested public, but in their unedited form they are not likely to drive a message home to decision-makers like local politicians, school governors or business leaders. Thus we found the methodology has great value for eliciting the participants view of the world in an open-ended way. In order to have an impact beyond the group reflecting on their own work, additional editing steps may be appropriate. In our subsequent work with UNICEF (see impact) we developed this and produced 2 films: A first version authentically produced by the young people and a polished second version produced by a professional editor based on the young people's creative vision, their footage and intended message.

The methodologies and skills of co-production with community organisations developed in this project were used, by Prof Rita Afonso (UFRJ) and Prof Dorothea Kleine (Sheffield University) in their GCRF project Nosso Mapa (£39k) which aims to co-produce a digital map and research agenda on the use of digital innovation in social change and sustainability initiatives in Sheffield and Rio.
Exploitation Route We recommend that community organisations such as the ones we worked with (Ovalhouse, Inspire and Observatorio de Favelas) take forward the methodology we developed and integrate it in their summer programmes with young people. Policy makers should take note of the topics and perspectives developed by the young people in their films. UNICEF have shown interest in our methodology and commissioned a trial run in a school in Montenegro, on a different topic: cyberbullying, which was successful. The methodology could be integrated in schools as a way to support young people's sense of citizenship and activism, as long as the school itself offers a sufficiently open-minded environment. For disadvantaged youth, community spaces in their own neighbourhood may offer a more liberating space.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description 1) 35 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Rio (18) and London (17) were trained in participatory digital film making; Through the medium of film, these young people engaged with the subject of food justice and food sustainability and were able to express their distinct perspectives on this. 2) 3 disadvantaged young people from Rio and 4 from London (the winning film-making teams) travelled to London/Rio respectively to present their work as young film makers at public screenings and engage in an exchange with young people in the other country. 3) Three community organisations, Ovalhouse and Inspire in South London and Observatorio de Favelas in Rio, collaborated in developing the methodology, received 1 set of camera kit, tripod etc and so remain in a position to replicate the methodology with further groups of youth. The representatives of the community organisations stated that after the workshops they felt more confident to use participatory video in their work and were "very likely" to use it in future. 4) three youth workers from these organisations travelled to another country, met with their peers from local community NGOs and developed ideas for their own community development practice and youth work. Please see for a full description of the project and its ongoing impact. The Films produced as part of the project were shown at a special film screening at London's Ovalhouse Theatre and in Rio de Janeiro at the Community Organisation Observatorio de Favelas, at the Universidad Federal do Rio de Janeiro and at the Community Organisation Voz Nativa. 5) Having seen the project process and results, UNICEF Office of Research Florence commissioned the PI to write an open-access Methods Guide on participatory research methods with young people. This Methods Guide is to be used by practitioners and researchers. 6) Having seen the project process and results, UNICEF Montenegro invited the PI to replicate the methodology in co-production with UNICEF, with young people in Montenegro. This was undertaken in November 2016, as a 4-day workshop and proved that it was possible to transfer the methodological toolkit developed in the project to another cultural context, another set of participants and to another topic, "opportunities and risks online" - including cyberbullying. UNICEF Montenegro now look to spread the toolkit to other UNICEF country offices. 7) Press engagement: There was online coverage on 5 websites, a 3-page spread in a Brazilian magazine, 1 article in the nation-wide O Globo newspaper in Brazil, 1 clip on Brazilian Television Journal do Rio TV Bandeirantes. Use of the methodologies and skills: In 2019 Prof Rita Afonso and Prof Dorothea Kleine were awarded GCRF funding to further develop, in collaboration with local community organisations in Rio and in Sheffield, a research agenda for digital innovation for social change and environmental sustainability. The co-production techniques we are using with the community organisations are based on the co-production methodologies and skills we developed with the ESRC Food Futures 2.0 project.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

Description Senior Expert on the Expert Panel for the European Research Dialogue
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Description Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Nosso Mapa: Mapping out a research agenda and potential co-production sites for social and environmental innovation
Amount £39,635 (GBP)
Organisation United Kingdom Research and Innovation 
Department Global Challenges Research Fund
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2019 
End 09/2019
Description Global Challenges Research Fund ESRC Digital Development Strategic Network
Amount £140,423 (GBP)
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 06/2018
Description Large Grant
Amount £681,234 (GBP)
Funding ID BH170896 RES/0321/TBC - Sustainable Consumption and Agri-food Ethics in the Global South 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 04/2020
Description Collaboration between Observatorio de Favelas and URFJ 
Organisation Favela Observatory
Country Brazil 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Through this research project, the leading NGO Observatorio de Favelas and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro collaborated in putting together a participatory video workshop with young people from the favela Mare.
Collaborator Contribution Observatorio contributed in kind approximately 12 person days to this ESRC-CONFAP project
Impact - joint workshop with young people from the favela - research trip to London for the representative of Observatorio to present their work
Start Year 2015
Description Collaboration between Sheffield University and UNICEF Montenegro 
Organisation UNICEF
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution - Unicef Montenegro asked us to replicate the participatory film methodology developed in this project with a different target group of young people (in Montenegro) and on a different topic (cyber-bullying)
Collaborator Contribution - 5 days of collaborative work during the workshop with 2.5 members of staff from Unicef
Impact - Our report to UNICEF discussing participatory methods with children used the findings from this collaboration
Start Year 2016
Description Collaboration between University of Sheffield and UFRJ 
Organisation Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Department Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute of Postgraduate Studies and Research in Engineering (COPPE)
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have been successfully collaborating on 3 consecutive projects. In the course of this, we have created mutual capacity building opportunities and trained in each others methods.
Collaborator Contribution We have been successfully collaborating on 3 consecutive projects.
Impact - several joint publications, 3 research projects. This is an interdisciplinary partnership as it involves marketing (Afonso); engineering (Bartholo); gastronomy (Burztyn) and geography (Kleine; Blake)
Start Year 2016
Description Digital Development Workshop 1 in Pretoria, South Africa 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Digital Development Workshop brought together researchers from different disciplines, as well as representatives from business, international NGOs and third party research organisations. 29 partners from 10 countries were involved, 24 attended a 3-day workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Film Tour/Trip with the winning film-makers from Rio to present film in London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The prize for the winning film-makers from Rio was a 1-week trip to London to present their film, meet counterparts, and discover life in South London/ meet students from the university/ visit an organic farm/hold a workshop to reflect on the week.
The trip was led by the PIs from London and Rio and involved also representatives from 1 Rio NGO (Observatorio) the 2 London NGOs, 3 film-makers from Rio and 4 young film-makers from South London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Keynote: Reading for Difference: Social Innovation in Cross-Cultural Perspective 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Prof Rita Afonso and Prof Dorothea Kleine delivered a joint keynote to the 12th International Social Innovation Research Conference (ISIRC 2020), hosted virually from the 1-3 September 2020 at the Centre for Regional Economic and Enterprise Development (CREED). There were 300 attendees from more than 30 countries, from business, academia, third sector, policy and media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Participation in the Digitainable Workshop of the Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Digitainable Project (DFG-funded) at the Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research - Innovation Campus Bonn (University of Bonn) held an online Digitainable Forum (Feb 23-24) with experts from academia, business and civil society mapping Digitalisation on to the SDGs. Dorothea Kleine spoke as a participant, which sparked interdisciplinary dialogue.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
Description Sustentavel pra quem - Olhar Brasileiro para o consumo de alimentos 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact From the SCARFE project, PI Prof Alex Hughes, Co-I Prof Dorothea Kleine and Co-I Prof Roberto Bartholo spoke at a workshop in Brasil presenting our findings from the project to relevant practitioner audiences, the media and an interested public. The workshop was in Portuguese with English translation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021